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This is a sample saved from a bottle I bought in June 2011. I took the sample almost immediately after opening it. After almost 2 years my memory says it isn't quite what I remembered, but it is very close.
Nose: Strong sherry on the nose with a deep rich sweetness – molasses, brown sugar, caramel, and honey. If I didn’t know better I would have thought this a Dalmore! After time more honey, raisins, and hay emerge. A bit on the astringent side (antiseptic, medical gauze and the like), but it isn’t horribly off putting. Seems to me I remember that peat use to linger here and there . . . so far very little: sherry is still the dominant player.
Taste: Sweet light and honeyed on the tongue. You can hold it without it blowing your mouth out. Nothing is turning sour or off key (no soapiness thank goodness). There is some cut dry grass, light oak, and a hint of sherry.
Finish: Tobacco smoke, leather, and honey suckle. Not a huge wave (and no crest or crash) but it is quite powerful and long lasting – medium to medium long. Very pleasant. It is like being hugged by my Grandpa’s old chair that sat by the fire place. You get that low burning fire embers along with the freshness of honey suckle and citrus, and the sweetness of the molasses, honey, and brown sugar. Maybe a hint of peat . . . maybe
Balance, Complexity: I really enjoyed the taste with the finish being quite surprising (the tobacco smoke and leather seemed to come out of nowhere). Although I can’t say it is as balanced as I remember it. Not terribly complex but still enjoyable.
Color, Body, Aesthetic experience: This was my gate way malt to Islay I remember my first bottle in 2005. The peat was present, but so elusive. I kept saying, “What is that?” And it sent me on a peat quest that I have never recovered from. However, I am not picking up on any of the peat that was there 8 years ago. So very sad. I also hate the new bottles (they look like bourbon bottles). Come on HP get it back together!
Conclusion: The bottle I bought after this one was even worse! Something was off indeed with that one. This batch was OK, but not what I remember of Highland Park prior to the bottle change. It is going to be really hard for me to put down money for my next bottle.